And why do most companies get this one thing about managers so very wrong ?
What is management really? It’s a super-important question because there’s this worldwide trend where everyone wants to be a manager – largely because companies mistakenly tend to reward management with prestige and benefits. That in itself is causing a whole lot more problems than we like to think – but more on that later.
Our team set out to find out what management actually is: What’s it’s definition, functions and the characteristics and features of management. And that’s when we noticed the hardest part about being a manager. Plus: What most companies get wrong about management, and how to fix it today:
WHAT IS MANAGEMENT: THE DEFINITIONS
For something we all think we know so well – we’ve all had managers and have an idea of managing something means – the definitions vary quite a bit. Dictionaries like Oxford and Cambridge tend to says it’s: ”the process of dealing with or controlling things or people”, which uses the word as an abstract noun. While most management studies use it as a proper noun, to describe the group of people (the managers) who do the managing.
But a much more accurate way to put it is that management is optimising and engaging resources to move to a specific goal. Resources can be anything, from people to knowledge to hardware and product. And the goal is your business goal.
So, immediately, we get an idea of what management is actually meant to do.
WHAT ARE THE FUNCTIONS OF MANAGEMENT?
There’s also a lot of varied opinions on what management is actually supposed to do. And a man in the Pakistani government, Muhammad Noman Riaz, collected quite a lot of those opinions in his article on Researchgate before trimming it down to just five key functions.
According to a lot of experts and people in business, it seems that the main perceived functions of management are:
1) Planning: analysing and strategising
2) Organising: allocating resources (including human, financial and physical)
3) Staffing: making sure you have the people to perform the necessary tasks
4) Directing: leading, motivating and communicating
5) Ensuring performance: setting performance standards and making sure they’re met
Now, this is the stuff that’s being taught to people in business and potential managers. But it’s worthwhile pointing out right now how broad those functions actually are. There are multiple different ways to perform each one.
How you communicate and motivate, whether you micromanage or allow people to self-manage – these things will have a huge impact on your organisational structure and ultimately company culture. See the surprising science of employee motivation and workplace trust, for example.
CHARACTERISTICS AND FEATURES OF MANAGEMENT
Management is an abstract concept, it’s intangible – you can’t see it, but you can “feel” when it’s working in an organisation or not. Mismanagement, for example, causes chaos and a lot of confusion and unhappiness in an organisation.
It’s also continuous and dynamic. In management, you’re always moving towards a goal, but it’s almost like you never actually achieve it, because things happen and change all the time (or you get a new goal), so you need to keep on top of everything – better yet, have a solid outlook and strategy that takes care of that for you (like empowering people to make decisions and come up with solutions themselves, instead of having to wait for you sign off, for example).
Management is also multidisciplinary. It involves planning and organising to achieve tasks and goals, managing the people that do the work and then managing the operations – how people and things do that work. So, it’s about 1) the work, 2) the people and 3) the operations.
And one of those, all managers find out sooner or later, is the trickiest thing to work with on this planet …
THE HARDEST PART OF MANAGEMENT: PEOPLE
By far the hardest part of anyone in management’s job is managing people. And you’ll find evidence of that everywhere you look. Just listen to what this law firm partner tells Entrepreneur.com:
And this product manager (the person who relays information from customers and stakeholders to a company’s engineers in product development and improvement) agrees so wholeheartedly, she did a full-on TED-style presentation on it:
Unlike money and other physical resources (cars, buildings, machinery etc.), people are never as simple and straightforward. We have emotions, ups and downs, motivations, beliefs, needs and all kinds of tricky stuff to navigate.
In fact, in this survey of over 2200 managers, as quoted by Forbes, the top 3 challenges every new manager faces all have to do with managing people. The hardest part about stepping into management is apparently balancing your own tasks with time spent overseeing other people.
And that shouldn’t come as a surprise, because that is a symptom of a management mistake almost every company makes at some point …
WHAT MOST COMPANIES GET WRONG ABOUT MANAGEMENT
Remember when we mentioned the trend of everyone wanting to be management? It’s very visible in most articles on Millenials and gen Y – who, opinions suggest, tend to want to walk straight out of college into a cushy management position. Well, it’s not really their fault, because that’s the way most companies are set up today: It’s almost as if management is the “ultimate goal of employment”.
But there’s a problem with that, and it’s causing companies to make one of the biggest mistakes they can. Most companies get this part wrong – stop us when you recognise it in your own experience (or even your current company):
As soon as a skilled employee distinguishes themself in their field, the automatic next step in their career advancement is to “promote” them to manage others. For example, if an engineer performs well, the company really has nothing more to offer them than a position where they manage other engineers. And, obviously, this is a huge mistake.
The skills you need to be a good engineer is every different from the skills you need to manage a team. Instead of problem-solving through design and innovation, the engineer now needs to listen to people’s problems (sick children, leave days etc.), motivate them and manage their performance. And, usually, they start doing the team members’ work for them, which leads to inefficiency and lower performance.
No wonder the engineer gets fed up and starts looking for a new job, right?
HOW TO FIX IT
Now, most of us have started to realise that there’s more to managing people than we once thought – see the engineer’s example. There are loads of soft and hard skills a manager needs, like leadership, being able to build relationships and fostering trust in others. And, though some people will have a natural talent for these things (find out who in your company through strengths-based development), they’re usually underdeveloped because our traditional formal education system doesn’t focus on them – universities usually don’t offer degrees in things like trust-building and empathy.
So, you need to be able to identify who’s really suited for managing people, and then teach them everything that school doesn’t teach.
And that’s where LifeXchange Solutions comes in. We combine the latest in neuroscience (see how your brain works), behavioural psychology (see the human development cycle) and neurolinguistic programming (see how to do the impossible in the backwards brain bike) with leading progressive management principles like Agile and Lean in our ultimate Agile Excellence Management Training.
We use the latest science to help organise, develop and grow your business – see our focus on neuromanagement and get awesome insights on big changes you can start making today with one of our neuromanagement workshops.
Got a management query or comment? Get in touch.
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